Planning your trade show schedule, lining up logistical details like shipping your freight to and from the convention center, and lining up show site labor to install and dismantle your trade show booths may seem like a daunting task, but these details will be what makes or breaks your success at the show.
To help get you on track for exhibiting success, we put together a list of our top tips to guide you through the process. These tips are the type that only come about through actual boots-on-the-ground experience.
So let’s dive right in, but before we do — I wanted to give a disclaimer that, by and large, most convention centers and crews do an amazing job, but ultimately keeping track of labor and paperwork is the exhibiting company’s responsibility. Keeping good records will help with the communication process and avoid disputes.
Tip #1 – Get Everything in Writing
Make sure you have good written records of any correspondence between you and the show organizers or general contractors. If they said it’s okay to have your back wall taller than 8 feet even though the site line restrictions say it can’t extend 8 feet — get it in writing. If they say they won’t charge you more than the two-person minimum for the setup labor — get it in writing, etc., etc.
Tip #2 – Have a Company Staff Member Oversee Set Up
As tempting as it may seem to arrange for show site labor at the show to take care of everything on set-up days and then arrange for your team to waltz in just before the doors open for the show — DON’T!
Have at least one dedicated team member present at your booth space during the installation phase. This helps you and the hired labor. Chances are your labor will have questions that you can help answer. You’ll make sure things are set up properly, well cared for, placement is correct, etc.
Trust me, the two extra hotel days will be well worth it!
Tip #3 – Keep Track of the Show Site Labor’s Time
This ties in with Tip #2 of having a company representative present in your booth space, but this particular point is worthy of its own tip number and mention. It is recommended to keep track of the number of crew members and times for each.
Record when they start, when they take breaks, and when they end for the day. This is even more important for the larger and more elaborate custom trade show builds. If there ends up being any discrepancy, you will have your records to show the show management.
I’m not suggesting anyone would overbill for time intentionally, but things can be crazy on a busy trade show floor, and having good records helps with good communication, which in turn leads to good outcomes.
Tip #4 – Have Show Site Labor Use Hand Tools Instead of Power Tools
In some cases, power tools are fine, and a big timesaver, like for wood panels that use screws for attaching them. In other cases, power tools can spell disaster.
We once had a customer who did a lot of trade shows every year with the same custom display using the SEG Frame System. This booth looked amazing, however, the connector for this frame system only required a half-turn to lock in place. At some of the shows, the hired labor used power tools on these connectors and completely busted a few of them. All of this could’ve been avoided by using the right tool for the right job and in this case, the right tool was the hand tool.
Tip #5 – Use White Gloves for Graphics
Fabric graphics are the predominant type of graphic found on show floors for most portable and modular displays. They’re even found on many custom and rental display types. But remember, for the graphics that have a light background color — especially white! — your installation and dismantle team should be wearing white cotton gloves during both installation and dismantle. This will help protect your graphics from the common dirt and grime that will ultimately end up on the hands of show site labor.
These are just a few of the many tips out there to help your next trade show go more smoothly.
Also, at the end of the show, remember to take photos of your beautiful exhibit in all its glory while still set up. Then save them to a trusty folder on your computer. If any pieces get lost or damaged during the dismantling phase, you’ll have them as a reference.